Mr. Harper may know that, were the public to believe he was trying to engineer his government's defeat, his popularity could evaporate.
In other words, the Prime Minister enjoys majority-government levels of support, provided he does nothing with it.
Otherwise, yeah, the poll sucks (a string of them have been sucking, actually).
But surely the response to a few bad polls is not to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. To publicly smack down an MP for a private member's bill that will never see the light of day anyway--that was, in an earlier incarnation, a Conservative bill--because of a talk radio AstroTurf campaign, reeks of desperation. And this:
A spokesperson for Ignatieff said that Sgro issued her release to make it clear that the legislation was not party policy, but that MPs are not forced to vote in any particular way on a private member’s bill.
...sending an underling out to wield the axe in the leader's place, is entirely lacking in chivalry and courage.